November 13, 2023, 11:41 am
In my last article, I touched on all 30 teams in the NBA in a sort of thought dumping and stream of consciousness. But now with three weeks in the books, I want to take a deeper dive into certain players that have either risen or fallen the most for me. Small sample caveats still generally apply, but we’re nearing a point where it is safe to start referencing advanced stats. I mainly looked at players that caught my eye and dove into the numbers to see what is different and how that affects my evaluation of players. With that, all stats referenced are from CleaningTheGlass and are as of November 12th.
We have to start with Jalen Johnson, who is contributing across the board and has seized a sizable role in the rotation. It’s not just a matter of seeing larger minutes; Johnson has been a willing off-ball cutter and shown a willingness to attack the ball when the opportunity has presented itself. Whatever you thought of John Collins, Jalen Johnson is fulfilling the role better. But how believable is his top-75 9-cat ranking so far? Let’s dig into it.
His 64.6 eFG% places him at the 85th percentile amongst all forwards. 74% of his attempts are assisted, but that is at the 46th percentile amongst all forwards. This indicates that while he is benefitting from the passing acumen of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, Johnson is doing more than his part to capitalize on his chances. His finishing at the rim has been an absurd 81% which will surely come down; nevertheless there is room for this to drop and for Johnson to still be a strong contributor in the FG% category.
What about the defense and rebounding? Johnson’s athleticism and size has allowed him to guard the larger wing defenders that the Hawks have faced. The steal and block rates are actually a tick lower than in the 1000 mins we saw last year, so there’s little doubt in my mind that these defensive numbers won’t continue. The same goes for the rebounding rates – both are in line with last season and should remain a strong part of his fantasy profile.
With all this in mind, Jalen Johnson’s hot start is completely real, and I expect it to continue going forward with perhaps a slight drop-off in FG%. I didn’t even touch on the passing aspet, which has some room to grow but is still present. When I update my dynasty rankings, Johnson will rocket up, most likely to the 50-70s range.
Part of my hesitancy with ranking Jalen Duren high lied with his minutes usage and how much more can he provide outside boards, FG%, and some blocks. On the first front, new head coach Monty Williams immediately scrapped the two-big line-ups (thank goodness!) and has thrust Duren into a significant starting role on the team. More minutes usually leads to more counting stats. Sometimes it’s not more complicated than that.
Where Duren has really impressed me is his passing ability. The Pistons have utilized Duren in a number of handoff actions and enabled Duren to utilize his passing vision in a variety of scenarios. I did note Duren’s passing vision in my pre-draft scouting work but thought it would take more time to display itself and become a part of the offense. Turns out that time is now. Duren’s 23.3% turnover percentage is extremely high, but the 16.4% assist percentage is dazzling as a big. I expect the Pistons to allow Duren to work through those turnovers and let Duren develop this skill set.
In addition, Duren’s vertical pop has stood out, giving Cade Cunningham an outlet in the pick-and-roll. This also aids him in the rebounding and block department. Duren’s strength and leap allows him to gobble up rebounds and lets him contest shots aggressively. His defensive consistency needs work, but we could see his blocks increase slightly as Duren continues to develop. I’m treating Duren as a top 35-45 fantasy player going forward.
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